The IOC stripped Olympic status from troubled boxing body AIBA on Wednesday and will now organize qualifying and final tournaments for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
AIBA had created “very serious reputational, legal and financial risks” for the IOC and its American stakeholders, Olympic inquiry panel chairman Nenad Lalovic said.
The election of AIBA president Gafur Rakhimov, who is under United States federal sanctions for suspected links to eastern European organized crime, prodded the IOC last year to investigate boxing’s governance, debts and integrity of Olympic bouts.
International Olympic Committee members voted to endorse the executive board’s recommendation last month to suspend AIBA’s Olympic status.
Lausanne-based AIBA has said it is near bankruptcy with debts of about $17 million. It is cut off from future income from Tokyo revenues, and the 2019 world championships for men and women in Russia are no longer Olympic qualifiers.
- Qualifying tournaments for Tokyo are intended to be held in four continents from January through March, likely in London, China, Senegal and Argentina. All are recent or future hosts of Olympic boxing competitions. A final global qualifier is expected to be held in Japan.
- That would give each boxer at least two chances to qualify for the eight men’s weight classes and five women’s classes, the IOC said.
AIBA has an emergency meeting scheduled for Thursday in Geneva, which an IOC delegate is scheduled to attend.
AIBA hoped for a reprieve by Rakhimov leaving his duties to an interim replacement in March, though he could choose to return at any time this year.
“These risks don’t disappear by the mere fact of Mr. Rakhimov ‘stepping aside,’” IOC board member Lalovic said, noting the Uzbek’s “level of influence and control remains uncertain.”
In December 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department noted “Rakhimov has been described as having moved from extortion and car theft to becoming one of Uzbekistan’s leading criminals and an important person involved in the heroin trade.”
The IOC had to avoid the consequences of fixed bouts or suspect results in Tokyo, said Morinari Watanabe, who leads the Olympic panel overseeing the next Olympic boxing competitions.
“It’s not just losing trust in boxing. It’s lost trust in the Olympic Games, it’s lost trust in the IOC,” said Watanabe, the Japanese president of the International Gymnastics Federation.
IOC president Thomas Bach said “we are all concerned with the refereeing.”
Boxers’ lack of faith in AIBA at each Olympics from 2008 to 2016 were raised by Lalovic, who led a three-member inquiry team.
Those doubts persisted despite AIBA reviews after each Olympics, Lalovic noted to an audience that included former AIBA president C.K. Wu, an IOC member for 31 years.
Wu oversaw each post-Olympic integrity review. He was ousted by AIBA officials two years ago amid a deepening financial crisis and protests about his often secretive leadership style.
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